(For a list of the problems I have found so far, go to the log here)
Yesterday, Mandriva 2010.1 (Spring) was released after a rather long wait that kept many people wondering if there was going to be a new Mandriva after "Adelie" . Since I had the opportunity to download the ONE version (KDE), I immediately installed it on my Dell Mini Inspiron V Netbook to test it.
In this initial review, I will share with you what I found. Now, before you continue reading, let me warn you that I am no computer guru, technician, software engineer, or the like. I am a simple computer user who got fed up with the formatting ritual and the multiple threats of Windows. I want to write this to people who do not know a lot about computers in the language they can understand. This is not a technical review; these are the honest impressions of a simple user. So please do not expect me to get into the intricate world of technicalities; I only want to say what a common mortal such as myself saw.
Well, the first novelty that I saw is the option to install the OS from the GRUB (the screen that lets you choose which OS you want to use to boot up the computer). That is certainly more convenient because, in previous releases, you had to run the system before to be able to install it. However, I decided to run the Live CD anyway to see how it performed. I'm sure there are more novelties, but this one was the most obvious for the untrained eyes of mine.
A. Start up time:
From the Live CD, the distro took a rather long time to allow me interact with the OS (3 min, 50 sec to present the screen for language choice). From there, I got the usual options (language, locale, keyboard to use, time). After that, the system did its thing until I could finally use it. The total start up time until I saw the Mandriva Galaxy window and the system was ready for use was 4 min, 45 sec. This might look excessive, but the OS is not installed, so, as a user, I utter no complaint. I did notice that there was no windows telling me what Akonadi was doing. (Don't worry; I don't know what that is, either :-P). Should I miss it? :-/
1. The USB drive was working perfectly (beautified, larger icons, integrated options) and displayed the available space on the device. It is placed to the bottom right, so Windows users will find it more familiar.
2. The audio with Amarok was fine (I played a wave file; it was OK). However, I couldn't play any MP3 files as the OS needs the codecs (which are provided when you install the system, so don't worry).
3. The effects worked great! I activated the Kwin cube and the screen borders. Everything worked perfectly. The best part was that the process for placing different wallpapers on each side of the cube became a matter of two clicks. This, in Mandriva 2010 ("Adelie"), was a headache because the plasma environment wouldn't obey you. Now, Mandriva managed to tame it, which I truly appreciate. You also get identified icons for your folders (videos, documents, music, downloads, images)
4. There is a possibility to switch the desktop interface (the one with a menu) to a simpler, yet strikingly beautiful, netbook appearance. However, if you enable it and then go back to the desktop appearance with the menu, the Kwin animated cube gets messed up. I mean, you can still have all the functionalities of the four desktops, but there is no turning animation; instead of the spinning cube, you see the main screen of the netbook interface when you change each desktop. You solve this little problem by rebooting, but since I was testing the Live CD, I just did not mind. UPDATE: I tested the netbook interface once that the OS was installed and the problem described above does not occur. Actually, it was mind-boggling to see that minimal interface interacting with the Kwin effects (the screen edges activated the "desktop grid", the "show desktop", and even the cube perfectly!)
5. The distribution comes with Firefox 3.6.6 as the web browser (you also get Konqueror), Kopete for instant messaging and, this time, it has SCIM. Yay! (This is the IME for working with other languages, such as Japanese, Thai, Korean). Update: After installing the corresponding software (packages and its dependencies), the IME works fine. マンドリバは日本語ができるよ。I cannot seem to make it work in Open Office, though, so I used Abiword for documents in Japanese. I can input Japanese text in Web pages without any problem.
6. The Card Reader works perfectly and the wi-fi detected the available signals as expected. Connecting was as simple as ever.
I rebooted and chose the installation without getting into the OS. The process went on smoothly; you get the partition wizard, etc. When I reached the stage of the GRUB installation, I noticed that it now offers you the opportunity to protect the GRUB with a password. I tried it, but it wouldn't let me because that feature does not work with a graphical installation...Well, not that I cared much, anyway. In general, the installation process did not change a lot: it is pretty intuitive and as user-friendly as it gets. I hooked the computer to a wired Internet connection and it pick it up without any need of my intervention. The whole thing lasted less than 25 minutes.
D. Booting with Mandriva Spring installed
After the installation, the OS took 1 min and 10 seconds to have the computer ready to work. That's fast enough for me, who used to wait more than 4 minutes for my Windows system to let me use the computer (when it was in a good mood, of course). They replaced the visual spinning circle (nice, but not very functional); so now you see a combination of a bar and a "verbose" process.
Update: I also booted the computer with the Netbook interface. The time is reduced a bit (10 seconds less).
I consider this new release a great OS for netbooks, as it runs efficiently and, although it looks beautiful, performance has not been sacrificed. I must install it to a laptop and desktop to see how it performs but, judging from my previous experience with Mandriva 2010, I expect no problem. However, I would not recommend using Mandriva 2010 Spring Live CD as RESCUE tool. Well, let me clarify: If our Windows computer breaks and you need to check your email, or create a document, this distro will save your day. However, as the Live CD does not include a CD burner (you get it when you install the OS) and it blocks access to other partitions, Mandriva Live CD will not be good to back up or modify documents in your Windows partition. If that is what you want, I suggest you to use SimplyMepis instead. Nevertheless, if you install Mandriva to keep your system as a dual-boot, you will be able to access your other partitions and back up documents from the Mandriva partition without any problem.
There was a time in which Mandriva was considered a somewhat "intermediate" Linux distribution. In 2009, when I started using it, I found it slightly "difficult". However, with the 2010 release, I have noticed how the distro has been oriented to the ease of use. I'm not saying that it is easy, as no OS is, but I must confess that I perceive less entanglement now. So, today I can confidently recommend beginners to install it as their debut distro in the fascinating world of Linux.
Even though we had to wait a bit more to have this distribution, in the eyes of a simple user, the waiting was worth it. Now I have to keep exploring to discover all the new possibilities (see updates). As a non-technical Linux user, my deepest gratitude to all who made Mandriva 2010 Spring a reality!
I created a page to log the different issues I might encounter and ways to solve them (or circumvent them if I cannot solve them) here.
UPDATE: Yesterday, I installed Mandriva 2010 Spring on a desktop to test how the OS performs there. I will post the issues on the log above.